By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4)– There’s a reason you have to get a flu shot every year. It’s because influenza is a virus and viruses have a tendency to change over time. COVID-19 is also a virus and since it became part of our world in 2020, it, too, has changed, similar to the flu virus.

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“It has a number of mutations that are a little bit different,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s State Epidemiologist.

One of those is the Alpha Variant more commonly known as the UK variant. Now we’re also seeing the Delta Variant which first popped up in India and has spread around the world. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is concerned. The main reason, it is more transmissible between unvaccinated people.

“Meaning that it’s spread more easily from person to person,” said Herlihy.

Also concerning: early data seems to indicate vaccine efficacy seems slightly lower with the Delta Variant.

A stack of COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards from the CDC. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

“We’re seeing that around 88% so not a huge difference, but a little bit of a difference,” said Herlihy.

This variant is already spreading throughout Colorado, but especially in Mesa County where they have what CDPHE considers an outbreak.

Herlihy said there’s a simple explanation, “There’s probably one big underlying reason for why we are seeing transmission in Mesa County and why other counties in Colorado might be at risk, and that is we know that the vaccination rates in Mesa County are lower than they are in certain parts of the state.”

If you want to be protected from any variant of COVID-19 you can practice social distancing, masking and washing hands. If you really want to be safe, you should get vaccinated.

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“That’s really going to be the best way to stop this variant like all variants of COVID-19,” said Herlihy.

Michael Abeyta